Stories from Stockholm (A collection of memories)

oldtown

(A) Flight to Finnland

I sit next to a gentleman who seemed kind of reserved and I resigned myself to a silent 13 hour flight to Finnland. He was seated in such a way that his arms took up most of my arm rest space. Now I had less space as well. Soon after the flight took off, he began to fidget with his earphones. It seemed that he was unable to hear anything.

As we were being served dinner, he turns towards me and goes “these seats are damn too small” and we hit off from there.

It turns out that Steve* was flying back to his hometown in Ukraine. He was initially from Transylvania in Romania (he has never been to the castle!) before his family moved to Ukraine. During his teenage years he was made fun for being able to speak Romanian so he tried to speak less of it and now he can speak just the basics but he is no longer ashamed of this fact.

Steve now lives in Australia with his partner. He was quite taken aback when I asked him to share his love story, “No one outside of the gay community has asked me my story,” he says.

I think it was one of the most beautiful stories I have ever heard.

Steve was driving his car with his friend in tow, when he spots this young gentleman crossing the road as he stopped his car at the signal. There was something about him that just shook him to the core so he turns to his friend and just randomly asked “do you know that guy?” to which his friend replied “actually, yes I do know him.” Turns out, they share a bunch of mutual friends and Steve’s friend arranged for a gathering. It was then that they spoke for the first time, and within two months they were living together. After 13 years ( well it would 13 years this October), they didn’t want to hide the fact of how important they were to each other, so they recently moved to Australia where things were open and accepting.

After dinner, I noticed that he had moved his arms and now I had more space for myself. Hearing his story, all I could think of was how some people are just destined to meet and fall in love. Think about it…Steve could have been travelling alone, and he would never have known that one of his friends knew the Love of his Life. It’s just amazing to think of the coincidences of it all.

(B) Wanda 

Wanda was sipping on her cup of coffee and she was glancing at me as I tried to whip up some cream to eat with pannkakor.  I suppose I must have looked crazy in my pyjamas, constantly muttering at the saucepan “harden up damn it!!” (I suppose my future in a loveless marriage would also consist of lines like these.)

I try to make conversation to reassure her that she was not indeed surrounded by a lunatic. I find out that her name is Wanda, that she is from Italy and that she was slowly going around Europe by herself. Wanda was in her late fifties and can barely stitch together 3 words in English. Yet there she was, in a small crammed kitchen in Stockholm, sipping on strong coffee. She had already been to Holland and within a few days she would be in Finnland.

I suppose regardless of your age, if you have the wanderlust, you travel as long you have breathe in your soul.

(C) A walk to remember

I hate walking to places. I try as much as I can to avoid walking. So I surprised myself when I agreed to take a walk early in the morning. There is just something in the Swedish air that makes everything a little surreal. I stop by a bakery and grab some buns which turn to be divine when I gobble them up later.

I eat one of the buns while I sit by a man-made splash pool overlooking macdonalds. There is a group of ducks near by and its hilarious to see them interact with one another. One of the ducks huff away from the other two ducks it was hanging out with and fly off to another pool near by. It then notices that the pair of ducks are getting way too friendly with one another and fly back to join them. At times, they try to drown one another in the pool, pushing one another’s head beneath the surface of the water.

Once I have had my fill of ducks, we trek to the top of the hill. I admit I lost my breath after the 13th step, but hey, who’s counting? As I reach the top, I find my salvation! Benches! I sit down and after a minute give in to the temptation to just lie down on it. I remember thinking to myself, remember this moment forever.

When I look up, I see the light streaming through the gaps in the leaves of the tree growing at the edge of the hill. The leaves are so green, so vivid, I feel like I could drown in them. And when I look across from where I lie, I see the town spread out before me, like little minions for my taking. It’s so quiet, I can hear my heart beating and I feel so alive and young and unbeatable in that moment.

And I swear in that moment, we were all infinite. 

(D) Google Translate

A colleague had brought her daughters over to the office so that they could meet us. Her eldest daughter had recently begun English lessons in school and was eager to meet others who could speak English and also she was very interested in those who could speak other languages.

I was trying to communicate with her and realised that simply signing to her wasn’t working. Either I am really bad at charades or else 8 year olds have different meanings for signs.

It was then I had a Eureka moment.

Google translate!

Soon we were chatting away using my laptop as the medium of translation.

“Do you have a boyfriend” I ask, and when she reads the translation, she giggles and shakes her head, “nayyyy.”

When she repeats this question to me, I can only do the same.

“Do you have children?” and that is when I realise how old I must look to her.

(E) Toilet Etiquette

We were trying to celebrate Ken’s birthday at work, when he got caught up in a meeting and wasn’t there yet so we broke open the Rose wine that we had gotten for him. By the time we made it to dinner, I was feeling high off the fact that I had snapped quite a number of cute looking guys on my phone. The waiter who was serving us was drop dead gorgeous so I had a sudden desire to have Mojito.

After dinner, I had to use the loo and as I was leaving the table, Stef reminds me that there are separate toilets for male and female. I was confident in my ability to tell them apart.

As I walk towards the toilet, I am surprised by how far the Swedish took their need to remain an equalitarian society. Why, the image of the female on the door lacked a skirt! How amusing I thought as I entered the toilet and how peculiar the shape of wash basins? The basin was heady with the smell of Ammonia.

They really need to clean the basin.

Just as I was flushing the loo, I hear the sounds of heavy footsteps outside the door. My, what a heavy footed lady? And they really needed to fix the tap, it sounded like barely a trickle was coming out of the tap.

I step out of the door and see the back of a man who was urinating with his dick in his hands. He had turned back to look at me when the door had opened. OMG! Why is there a man in a woman’s toilet and why was he peeing in the basin? OMG! OMG! I was in the male toilet! OMG! Blue-tee shirt guy was looking at me weird! What do I do? Oh yea, run!

I run back up to our table and I go “guys I just used the male toilet by accident!” And they don’t even bat an eyelash. “Uh huh, so what else is new?”

Just when I am about to suffer from a panic attack, I notice that they sell “Orgasms” and “Sex on the beach.”

Soon, my friends are badgering me to order one from the cute waiter. They even suggest lines!

“I would love an orgasm from you”

“I would like an orgasm with sex on the beach.”

“I would like an orgasm and he will pay for it.”

After paying, sans Orgasm or Sex on the beach, we make our way out when I spot the Blue-tee guy.

I run.

(F) Under the Bridge lay the troll

 We spend some nights playing ‘bridge.’ It has become an addiction.

“What time is it?”

“1.38am”

“Let’s play another set of bridge.”

“Set?”

“Like 7 games”

Playing ‘Bridge’ has inadvertently given me insights into life.

  1. Play to win.
  2. Don’t make assumptions unless you have definite proof to back you up. (Count on your inner voice once you have a better understanding of the game. If not, its just confused.)
  3. If you want to win, play your highest card, buttry to remember if someone else has the card that can win yours.
  4. Trying to find your partner can be hard. Don’tmake assumptions about your partner.
  5. Sometimes, blatantly play a card that will causeyour partner to reveal himself/herself. (If only Life was this easy, huh?)
  6. Sometimes someone plays a card you weren’t expecting.
  7. If you don’t take the courage to fight for what’s your strength during bidding, you are only hurting your chances of winning.
  8. Don’t be afraid to bet big. Your partner has your back. If they know what they are doing.
    If you overanalyze your moves, you might just lose.
  9. Always play to win.

This was my first time in 23 years actually playing ‘Bridge’ with the understanding of the game, instead of randomly throwing whatever card I felt like getting rid off.

But I had also emerged out of this experience with what I can only express as “Voices of Judgment.”

Every time I am about to make a move, I could hear Ken’s and Jen’s voice going “Are you sure you want to make this move?” and I could just imagine their looks of Judgment; the silent head shake from side to side like ametronome. It wasn’t even a good angel/bad angel scenario. Both of their miniature versions perched on my shoulders, would make me question my moves.

I had to play the game from their viewpoint and funnily enough this only made me abetter player over time. #Tough love

(G) Walk: Part deux 

The feeling when you take a walk by yourself. I have not done this in ages. In Singapore, simply walking into the lift from the doorsteps of your home can leave you drenched in the pool of your own sweat.

There is a simple pleasure in taking a walk by oneself.There is no need for you to be entertaining or engaged in conversation. You can focus on the world around you. Its very beautiful, the stacks of building side by side, like little lego blocks. The trees that line the road, and the park,with their leaves swaying in the breeze.

Stumbled upon a Church that was undergoing renovations and in the bleak light looked abandoned. There was something haunting about being surrounded by such history just by myself. There was no other noise, and I constantly kept looking behind, almost half-expecting to be haunted by the memories of the past.

But there was nothing except fear that had sprung forth from my own imagination.

(H) A state of mind 

There is something to be said of loneliness, when it cripples you from the inside when you least expect it.

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